Let’s imagine for just a moment that a small but vocal section of the left was consumed with hatred for one faraway country: barely an hour could pass without them condemning it, not just for this or for that policy, but for its very existence, for the manner of its birth, for what it represented. And now let’s imagine that this country was the only place in the world where the majority of the population, and most of the government, were black. You’d expect the racist right to hate such a country. But imagine it was that noisy segment of the left that insisted it would be better if this one black country had never been created, that it was the source of most of the conflict in its region, if not the world.
I was wrong. I’ve spent most of my career arguing that anti-Semitism in the United States is almost entirely a product of the political Left. I’ve traveled across the country from Iowa to Texas; I’ve rarely seen an iota of true anti-Semitism. I’ve sensed far more anti-Jewish animus from leftist college students at the University of California, Los Angeles, than from churches in Valencia. As an observer of President Obama’s thoroughgoing anti-Israel administration, I could easily link the anti-Semitism of the Left to its disdain for both Biblical morality and Israeli success over its primary Islamist adversaries. The anti-Semitism I’d heard about from my grandparents — the country-club anti-Semitism, the alleged white-supremacist leanings of rednecks from the backwoods — was a figment of the imagination, I figured. I figured wrong.
Start with the bad apples. The cases of Gerry Downing and Vicki Kirby certainly look pretty rotten. The former said it was time to wrestle with the “Jewish Question”, the latter hailed Hitler as a “Zionist God” and tweeted a line about Jews having “big noses”, complete with a “lol”.
It’d be so much easier if these were just two rogue cases. But when Alex Chalmers quit his post at Oxford’s Labour club, he said he’d concluded that many had “some kind of problem with Jews”. He cited the case of one club member who organised a group to shout “filthy Zionist” at a Jewish student whenever they saw her. Former Labour MP Tom Harris wrote this week that the party “does indeed have a problem with Jews”. And there is, of course, the word of Jews themselves. They have been warning of this phenomenon for years, lamenting that parts of the left were succumbing to views of Jews drenched in prejudice.
I’ve experienced more pure, unadulterated anti-Semitism since coming out against Trump’s candidacy than at any other time in my political career. Trump supporters have threatened me and other Jews who hold my viewpoint. They’ve blown up my e-mail inbox with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. They greeted the birth of my second child by calling for me, my wife, and two children to be thrown into a gas chamber. Yes, seriously. This isn’t a majority of Trump supporters, obviously. It’s not even a large minority. But there is a significant core of Trump support that not only traffics in anti-Semitism but celebrates it — and god-worships Trump as the leader of an anti-Jewish movement.
On the left, black people are usually allowed to define what’s racism; women can define sexism; Muslims are trusted to define Islamophobia. But when Jews call out something as antisemitic, leftist non-Jews feel curiously entitled to tell Jews they’re wrong, that they are exaggerating or lying or using it as a decoy tactic – and to then treat them to a long lecture on what anti-Jewish racism really is.
The anti-Semitism on the right may slink back beneath its rock when Trump is defeated. Or perhaps it will continue to bubble up, fed by the demagoguery of bad men willing to channel ignorant rage toward their own glorification.